I have an immense affection and dislike for Organ Trail: Director’s Cut, and this sea of conflicting emotions has left me adrift, as P.M. Dawn once opined, in memory bliss.
First the good stuff -- Organ Trail is a clever play on Oregon Trail and the standard zombie infestation. You are a survivor determined to make it across America in one piece, along with four friends in tow. Traveling from town to town, you must budget your money to feed your crew, purchase med kits to heal their wounds, and keep the fuel tanks and repairs up to date for your beat up station wagon. A plethora of diseases and tragedy occur during the journey, and the ability to adapt along the way is key to your survival. Each town has specific jobs that you can perform for a cash reward. Even fuel tanks serve as recompense for a job well done. While traveling to your next destination, you can stop anywhere on the road, talk to strangers, and more importantly, scavenge for food and other valuable items.
The intended early 1980s visuals definitely appeal to gamers who remember a simpler time, when titles like Below the Root ruled the roost and first person shooters were barely on the horizon. The true appeal of Organ Trail is the exceedingly complex challenge of keeping everyone alive while zombies, hunger, and random cutthroats are out for your blood. Tragedy is littered throughout Organ Trail, and even during your seemingly zombie-less drives from town to town nothing really ever goes right. It's that underlying bleak tone that continues to peak my interest.
If you’re more of a glass half-full kind of person and want a zombie inspired game with storytelling panache, then go forth on this perilous trail. However, a big strike is the horrible way of controlling your character, which is almost downright impossible to manage. To move your character, tap the screen to your intended direction. Using a gun requires touching the screen to aim and quickly releasing your finger to shoot. The zombies move at a surprisingly fast clip, and it’s hard to dispatch of the cretins even in easy mode. Whenever you aim your rifle at a zombie, you have to stop, and this lack of mobility will be your undoing after several failed missions. Expect a slight learning curve with Oregon Trail, unless you have the fastest and itchiest trigger finger on the planet.
The title's main drawback is a biggie: The Organ Trail screen has a tendency to freeze in the middle of gameplay, an experience which occurred while playing on my iPad and iPhone. I had to power off both devices to reboot the game, and although Version 1.0.1 promised the requisite bug fixes, the crashing issue still exists.
If the difficulty of moving your character while trying to killing a horde of zombies doesn’t get you, having the game crash several times could shake your fidelity to Organ Trail. Its saving grace lies in the games layered take on a 2D universe. You just don’t kill zombies with Organ Trail, you have to find food, engage with the local town folk, trade and sell items, and possibly even kill one of your own friends just to survive to the next destination. I still have no idea whether to kiss this game or throw my iPad against the wall due to its bug issues. Sometimes love really does hurt, and if Organ Trail doesn’t fix some of its problems with another update, I want a divorce.